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  • Dutch Thomson

The Illusion of Control



Most of us believe we have more control over our lives than we actually do. There have been a number of experiments that demonstrate this:


"Participants in a lottery experiment believed they had more control over the outcome if they chose their numbers rather than having them randomly assigned. People believe they are less likely to get into a car accident if they are driving than if they’re riding in the passenger seat. In the game of craps, gamblers tend to throw the dice harder when they need higher numbers, evidencing an implicit belief that with 'skill' they can somehow control their fortune." (Sandra Sanger, PhD)


The present stress, amidst the global alarm for Covid-19, is an opportunity for a reality check. While the loss of control is clearly evident (confined to quarters, not being able to go out to eat, and running out of items at the grocery store); nevertheless, it begs the question, "How much control did we actually have to begin with?"


A theme woven throughout my writing is that humans are incredibly powerful beings. Archeology suggests humans have managed to escape extinction at least 3 times. Some would say we have been lucky, but I think we have also been smart and strong. We are amazing survivors.


So why would I write about the illusion of control, when I am also striving to help people see they are more powerful than they realize? Ironically, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Both ideas are needed for us to attain our greatest potential. The truth is that we ARE more mighty than we think we are, and we ARE more fragile than we know.


We are mighty in the things that separate us from the other animals on the planet. We have capacities that other animals could not dream of. A host of items make us amazing creatures: our ability to communicate, to build community, to come together to achieve goals, and our ability to gain knowledge and build upon discoveries made by previous generations.


Yet, we have been lucky. Perhaps we have escaped extinction. No doubt, a bit of luck has helped eliminate a few terrorists and tyrannical dictators. What matters is that we have an Accurate Perspective. Nothing has the capacity to destroy mankind more than our own arrogance. We are responsible for the problems associated with global waste, and the contamination of our atmosphere. Decisions have been made for profit which have destroyed ecosystems, and brought some animal species dangerously close to extinction.


Humans are most fragile when we are most arrogant; when we believe in illusions that are not real. We are fragile when we role dice, and think we'll get luckier if we throw them harder. We are fragile when we destroy each other with our own lust and greed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Weinstein; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Madoff).

Humans are most mighty when our brains comprehend reality, hope for better days, reach out to help each other, and work together to overcome individual, local, and global obstacles.


Those who feel the most helpless and weak are much stronger than they think. Those who work to build their own empire, at other's expense, are much weaker than they imagine. Strive to see accurately.




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